The 2012 Syracuse Orange are off to a solid start.
A recent loss to the Temple Owls is the only blemish on their schedule. Despite the performance in the loss, Syracuse still boasts a style and a roster that should give them much success during the NCAA Tournament.
In order for a team to make a long run in March, scoring, team defense and depth are three key areas that must be focused on.
Syracuse has already shown the ability to score a ton of points this season. The Orange rank fifth in the country, scoring 83 points per game. The team's shooting percentage of 47 percent could be better, but it's still decent and good enough for 33rd in the nation.
Scoring points is a must to win in the tournament. So far, Syracuse has had no problems doing that.
Along with the ability to score, the Orange are once again a tough defensive team. The patented 2-3 zone can present many headaches for teams in the tournament. Several opponents may be unfamiliar with the scheme and have little time to prepare for it.
Not only are the Orange tough defensively, but they can also rebound the basketball. Getting second chance opportunities and limiting the opportunities of the opponent are essential if a team wants to go far.
The 'Cuse ranks fifth in rebounding, grabbing 44.2 a game. Four players: C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman, Baye Keita, and Rakeem Christmas are all averaging over five boards a game. James Southerland and Michael Carter-Williams each add 4.9 per game.
Perhaps the most important factor that enables a team to win during the NCAA Tournament is depth.
By March, the season will have been going on for at least four months and teams will be worn out. Throw in the fact that conference tournaments take place the week before March Madness starts, and depth becomes of utmost importance.
Just ask Orange fans about what happened last season.
Star center Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse had no comparable replacement for him at the time and really felt his absence down low in its Elite 8 loss to Ohio State.
This season, Syracuse plays with a nine-man rotation in which all players are averaging over 10 minutes a contest. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams see most of the minutes at that position with freshman Trevor Cooney pitching in 14 a game.
The frontcourt is the deepest area for the Orange.
Starters DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and C.J. Fair already present a dominating group of forwards for opposing teams to handle. Head coach Jim Boeheim has the luxury of bringing in James Southerland, Baye Keita and Jerami Grant off the bench to fill his frontcourt.
Southerland actually gets the fourth most minutes on the team at 26 a game. He currently leads the team with 15 points per game, as well.
The biggest issue so far this season has been foul shooting. Syracuse shoots just 65 percent from the line and ranks 274th in the nation. That will need to be improved upon as the season moves forward.
The regular season is long and grueling, but it puts teams in a position to win when it counts in the postseason. Fans of the Orange are no strangers to tournament disappointment.
With the roster that has been assembled, 2013 looks like it could be the year that the Orange make a return trip to the Final Four.
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